Women and Folktales

Women are important storytellers and bearers of cultural heritage in Laos. However, their voices are rarely heard outside their communities, due to their traditional homebound responsibilities and their lack of confidence in participating in public forums. At the same time, traditional folktales and legends are in danger of dying out, as an older generation passes on and young people prefer entertainment from television and the internet.

With this in mind, in 2015, the Luang Prabang Film Festival and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre launched the Women and Folktales Project, to empower ethnic minority women in Laos and document and disseminate traditional stories using film.

Funded by the US Embassy Vientiane, the project filmed seven women, from Hmong, Kmhmu, and Tai Lue villages around Luang Prabang, recounting 19 traditional folktales in their native languages. These films were translated into Lao and English, subtitled, and are now archived within the digital libraries of LPFF and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. They can also be viewed on TAEC’s YouTube page.

Two of these folktales were turned into animated shorts with the creative input of the storytellers. The Spider Man (Kmhmu) and What the Buffalo Told the Humans (Tai Lue) are traditional, yet vibrant, cartoons that are used by TAEC’s Education and Outreach Team in local primary schools and distributed to libraries and children’s organizations, exposing a whole new audience to the diverse cultural heritage of Laos.